I like the simplicity, weatherproofing, and light weight of top loading packs, and I don’t mind climbing through the top of the pack to get to my gear. I do appreciate the central zipper, however, and use it often throughout the day. If I was designing the pack, I think I might opt for a side-access zipper like on the Mystery Ranch Metcalf (or my Blackjack ski pack LINK) because it strikes me as a little more convenient, but I think the two styles generally function pretty similarly. I have had no issues with the zipper failing despite putting some serious pressure on it a few times when trying to close up the pack.
The most useful accessory I’ve found for the Stone Glacier packs is the removable hip belt pockets. While sometimes it’s nice to have a clean hip belt without pockets, I prefer to have them available on both long trips and on day trips for quick access to snacks and small devices. They are easy to attach and use, and are relatively lightweight.
Another accessory that I’ve used for several trips is the Access Pocket. It’s a 900 cubic inch pocket that attaches onto the back of the pack using the existing compression straps. I’ve found that it’s sometimes nice to have a little extra room on the outside of the pack, but that it makes it harder to access the main zipper and probably not worth the extra weight and hassle.
Cirque 6200 vs Sky 7400 and other “Krux Frame” Packs
If I was purchasing a new pack right now for multisport adventures that might involve carrying heavy loads, I would lean heavily toward purchasing another Stone Glacier pack. The hardest decision would be between the Cirque with its sewn-on bag and the Sky series, which offers a similar style of bag — but the bag is detachable and modular from the frame.
While the Sky series packs do weigh a little more and don’t offer quite as secure of an attachment to the frame, they offer several benefits. First, it’s easy to swap your frame out between the different bags that Stone Glacier sells for different kinds of trips, or in case you somehow destroy your existing bag.
More importantly to me, being able to detach the main bag and install the “load shelf” opens up the ability to dramatically increase the carrying capacity of your pack.
This feature was initially designed to be used to cinch dense, heavy loads of meat close to the frame while carrying lighter camping gear in the main bag just behind the meat. While it certainly works great for that, it also works amazingly well for general expedition-style adventuring. I’ve used the load shelf on my Sky 7400 to keep my wet packraft, pfd, and drysuit cinched in close to my body and separated from my nice dry camping gear in my main pack.
I’ve also used it with a lightweight drybag (sold separately by Stone Glacier, but any drybag will work) to carry all of my heavy food and other heavy camping gear. This latter approach is beneficial both because it keeps the heavy stuff close to my body but it also makes it very convenient for me to drop a week’s worth of food and camping gear on a glacier in dry bag in one quick move, leaving my ski and glacier gear in my pack for some quick ski laps while on a traverse. I think it’s a super cool feature and worth a little extra weight depending on the kind of trips you take.
Stone Glacier is making lightweight backpacks that carry very heavy loads as well as any heavy-load carrying pack on the market. For going as light as possible on adventures that involve heavy loads of food, gear, or other toys, I haven’t tried or seen anything on the market that compares to the Stone Glacier packs. For more adaptability, I’d recommend going with one of their Sky series packs, but for a simple, secure, lightweight, big-load-hauler, the Cirgue 6200 is hard to beat.